Possible rental scam targeting second homeowners, landlords
FRISCO – A Frisco second homeowner believes he avoided being scammed by someone posing online as an interested renter, and wants others who rent properties to be alert when considering prospective tenants.Parker resident David Craig recognized something wasn’t right after he received duplicate e-mails from different senders showing interest in his Frisco condominium, which he advertises online for short-term rentals.He soon realized he was likely being targeted for a scheme involving forged money orders or cashier’s checks.The first e-mail came from “Dave” requesting a reservation for one week in October for his honeymoon. The writer said his boss would be paying for the vacation and asked for a price estimate.Craig responded and received a second e-mail agreeing to the price and rental terms and asking for a mailing address and contact phone number.The writer then sent a third short message saying the payment had been mailed.Craig traveled out of town for a week and, when he returned, was alarmed to see a message from a similar e-mail address also asking to book lodging for a honeymoon that his boss would pay for. The second request was written in the same broken English and used similar wording as the first request.”I went, ‘Oh, this is not right,’ then I started investigating it,” Craig said.Craig talked to a local banker who explained that it could be a scam involving a forged money order. The sender would mail the money order, then call or write to say that they had overpaid and ask for cash back. Money orders and cashier’s checks can take a week or more to clear the banking system, so it wouldn’t become obvious that the check was fraudulent until a refund had already been sent.Craig’s intuition was confirmed when he received another e-mail from the original sender saying he had sent a certified check for $2,300 – more than $1,100 over the amount he owed. He asked Craig to send the difference back because the funds were supposed to go to the travel agency that had booked the rest of the trip.Craig doesn’t expect to receive a check from the supposed renter because he did not answer the final message. He didn’t call the police because he didn’t lose money and figured it would be difficult to track the originator since correspondence was done on the internet.Sherry Burrus, manager at Credit Union of the Rockies, said it is easier to forge cashier’s checks and money orders, which used to be considered as good as cash.”If somebody has a mindset to do it, it’s not that difficult,” Burrus said.It’s up to banks and credit unions to stiffen their policies on depositing the checks, she said. Craig said even if he hadn’t realized something was fishy, he probably wouldn’t have sent a refund check to the potential renter, but believes others could easily fall into the trap.”The knowledge of the delayed function of a cashier’s check and a money order might catch some people if they were nice honest people,” Craig said.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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